Since their kidnapping by Boko Haram in 2014, only a couple dozen Chibok girls have been reunited with their parents. Some 21 girls were released last October following negotiations brokered by the Swiss government while another was rescued by armed forces six months earlier. The fate of the other 200 or so girls is largely unknown, although rhetoric from Boko Haram terrorists suggest some have been married off and killed by airstrikes by Nigerian forces.
Things could have turned out differently, according to a new report by The Guardian’s Observer which says British armed forces offered to rescue the girls months after they were taken but were rebuffed by Goodluck Jonathan, then president of Nigeria. According to the Observer, British forces located the girls after conducting air reconnaissance in the months after their kidnap. Documents obtained by the Observer through UK’s Freedom of Information Act suggest the Nigerian government preferred to spearhead the rescue of the girls. “Nigeria’s intelligence and military services must solve the ultimate problem,” ex-president Jonathan said in a meeting with Mark Simmonds, UK’s then Africa minister, according to the documents.
For his part, Jonathan has denied rejecting British help, saying “nothing can be further from the truth” and attributing the report to those “who have been playing politics with the issue of the abducted girls.” Jonathan’s seemingly lax handling of the Chibok girls’ kidnap has been consistently criticized. With days of delay spent needlessly politicizing the kidnap, Boko Haram gained a head start on Nigerian forces which, in the months afterwards, made little progress in their rescue attempts.